David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
David Phelps is lucky he doesn't pitch for the Mets. Otherwise, he'd be on a plane to Vegas right now.
Phelps didn't make it out of the first inning Wednesday night, and while that may fly in the kinder, gentler Bronx, the Mets finally have chosen to play the accountability card in Flushing. Or getting close to it. Maybe. Sort of.
After weeks of finger-waving at Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis, Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins used the V-word late Tuesday night in meeting with both players. A few minutes before that little chitchat, however, Tejada and Davis already had been ticketed for the desert until the Mets' brain trust abruptly changed their minds.
Getting some quality casino time doesn't sound like punishment to 99 percent of the population, but starring in the baseball version of "Hangover 3" wasn't very appealing to a pair of once-promising players who evidently wanted to stay in the majors for a little bit longer.
Both were hours away from being fitted for 51s jerseys by the time Lucas Duda's shattered-bat single beat Mariano Rivera late Tuesday night. Instead, they got a last-second reprieve when Alderson and Collins figured the time wasn't right, not in the midst of a three-game winning streak that was extended to four with Wednesday night's 9-4 rout of the Yankees.
Tejada and Davis responded to help build a 5-0 lead and bounce Phelps in the first inning. Tejada led off with a base hit and looked like Jose Reyes scoring all the way from first base on Daniel Murphy's double. As for Davis, he delivered a well-struck, bases-loaded single shortly afterward and finished 2-for-5.
The moral of the story is that accountability is good, accountability works -- and it seemed to be in short supply in recent years with the Mets. If it were up to us, Tejada and Davis would have been airmailed to Vegas a week ago. But the Mets' more patient approach -- actually, let's call it more lenient -- appeared to pay off for at least one night.
Still, Tejada wound up leaving the game because of a right quad injury, and a Mets official said he'd be "shocked" if Tejada isn't placed on the DL Thursday. Calling up Omar Quintanilla likely would be the corresponding move. In the big picture, it's what the Mets wanted anyway, as Davis is deemed more pivotal to their immediate success.
"If he's now moving forward," Terry Collins said of Davis, "we'll be a better team."
Across town, accountability has been as much a tradition with the Yankees as pinstripes, with the late George Steinbrenner publicly threatening his players and front-office personnel on a regular basis. Few could escape his crosshairs, and the bigger the salary, the bigger the target.
As motivators go, nothing works better than job insecurity, and maybe that again has worked to the Yankees' advantage this season with the revivals of Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner. They're not the only ones, either. Ivan Nova lost his job while on the DL when Phelps excelled in his rotation spot, but Phelps could now be in danger himself after a frustrated Joe Girardi had to pull him way too early Wednesday night.
It hasn't helped that the Yankees are losers of four straight, including three to the Mets, and the Red Sox roll into town this weekend for an AL East showdown. The conversation also has shifted from praising this gritty bunch of youngsters and has-beens to counting the minutes until the real players return.
That's supposed to start happening Friday, when Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis carpool in from Double-A Trenton. Teixeira has been on the DL with a ripped tendon sheath in his wrist since early March and Youkilis took a month to recover from back issues.
Maybe the timing is right. Now that the Yankees are on a mini-skid, messing with the lineup doesn't seem to be as big a deal.
"It's the nature of the business," Girardi said. "It's what happens. Everyone talks about chemistry -- chemistry is usually brought about by winning games. If we continue to win games, people probably won't talk about the chemistry."
What Girardi should have said is when the Yankees start winning games. The Yankees' manager might want to try waving some Scranton bus tickets around the clubhouse.